TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (BP)–The American Civil Liberties Union joined other liberal interest groups Sept. 21 in filing a lawsuit against a proposed constitutional marriage amendment in Florida, seeking to prevent it from appearing on the ballot in 2006.
Similar to lawsuits against amendments in other states, the ACLU suit, filed at the state supreme court, argues that the proposed Florida amendment violates the state Constitution by dealing with more than one issue — banning “gay marriage,” Vermont-style civil unions and domestic partnerships.
So far, no state supreme court has prevented an amendment from going to the voters. Eighteen states have adopted such amendments, and others are likely to follow. Texans will vote on a marriage amendment in November.
“Those behind this initiative are trying to hoodwink the people into believing this is only about marriage,” Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement. “The truth is it goes much further than that. It blocks same-sex couples from civil unions and threatens domestic partner registries.”
Conservatives, though, disagree and say the amendment deals with only one subject — marriage and its legal benefits. A conservative coalition, Florida4Marriage.org, is collecting signatures with the goal of putting the amendment before voters. Liberty Counsel is representing the group.
“Same-sex marriage advocates know that when the people have the opportunity to vote they overwhelmingly uphold marriage between one man and one woman,” Liberty Counsel President Mathew Staver said in a statement. “Their only hope is to misrepresent the facts and derail the amendment. Pure and simple, the ACLU and its allies want to take away our right to vote. But that will not happen.”
The ACLU was joined in the lawsuit by Equality Florida and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. They represent six homosexual couples.
Last year state supreme courts in Georgia and Louisiana rebuffed efforts by liberal groups to keep amendments off the ballot. In both instances, the groups argued the amendments violated the single-subject rule.
Marriage amendments have proven wildly popular nationwide, passing with an average of 70 percent of the vote in the 18 states that have adopted them. A marriage amendment has never lost at the ballot. The amendments protect against rulings by state courts. Massachusetts — where “gay marriage” was legalized by a court — has no such amendment.
The proposed Florida amendment reads: “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”
NEW YORK SUIT GETS HEARING — A New York State appellate court heard oral arguments Sept. 13 in a case seeking “gay marriage” legalization there. The case comes from a lower court that struck down the state’s marriage laws in February and sided with homosexual activists. That ruling was stayed pending the appeal.
Leonard Koerner, an attorney representing New York City, argued that the definition of marriage is an issue for state legislators and not the courts, the Associated Press reported.
The homosexual activist group Lambda Legal filed the suit on behalf of five same-sex couples, although the five-judge panel didn’t openly embrace Lambda’s arguments. The New York Law Journal reported that the appellate court “expressed skepticism” at Lambda’s arguments. The Associated Press reported that the judges “seemed to reject” any relationship between this case and Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down bans on interracial marriage.
Whatever the panel decides, the New York Court of Appeals — the highest court in the state — will have the final word.
SIGNATURE DRIVE IN MASS. — Churches across Massachusetts will gather signatures Oct. 2 as part of “Protect Marriage Sunday” — a unified effort to place a constitutional marriage amendment on the ballot in 2008, The Boston Globe reported.
Conservatives in the state must gather nearly 66,000 signatures by Thanksgiving, although they hope to collect many more to make up for those that the state tosses out.
Protestant and Catholic churches from all races are taking part in the concentrated drive, The Globe reported. Many of the state’s residents are Catholic.
“As faithful citizens, we have a moral obligation to defend the truth, no matter how counter-cultural or unappreciated our convictions might be,” Bishop George W. Coleman of Fall River, Mass., wrote to parishioners, according to the newspaper. “The time is upon us to take a stand and to act, lovingly but firmly, to restore and defend the truth about marriage.”
Massachusetts legalized “gay marriage” last year following a ruling by the state’s highest court. If the amendment petition is successful, then it must gather the support of 25 percent of state legislators in two consecutive sessions before appearing on the ballot.
For more information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage